Review: The DMZ by Jeanette Windle


(Originally posted at Luxury Reading May 8, 2011. I am the author of this review, which is presented here with edits indicated by brackets.)

Deep in the Colombian rainforest, enemies of the United States are constructing a weapon that is sure to cripple the world’s leading superpower. Top governmental agencies have deployed assets to the region, but will they discover the jungle’s secrets before it’s too late?

Julie Baker is the daughter of missionaries and grew up in the demilitarized zone. Now a journalist, she returns to the DMZ to observe an autopsy of American citizens who died in guerrilla territory. Her return sets off a chain of events of which even she is unaware, until she is captured by the very people who granted her safe passage; now, she must make peace with her past and find a way to leave the DMZ alive.

Windle attempts to weave two different stories into one but is only sometimes successful. The two primary plot lines, outlined above, are intriguing but stand mostly apart from one another, as if they were two separate books. Minor plot points emerge throughout the book, but many of them are irrelevant distractions and fizzle quickly. The exposition is too long and so fragmented that even the main character’s introduction (on page 71) is easily dismissed.

There are several passages of purely historical background that are better suited to an afterword, as they completely interrupt an already tenuous flow. Moreover, there are religious undertones that become increasingly prominent through the second half of the book and become a competitive thread rather than a complementary layer to an already complicated story.

Julie often came across as immature. While her personal tragedy was believable, her response to [it] was selfish until almost the very end. However, her introspection was legitimate at times, and it was hard not to feel sorry for her situation. Another primary character, on the other hand, breathed life into the narrative with [the intensity of his personality and the intrigue of his story]. Though dynamic supporting characters appeared, there were so many peripheral characters to keep track of that it was nearly impossible to invest anything in their development — something that showed in [Windle’s half-hearted] portrayal of them.

Windle alternately refers to some characters in different ways on the same page; this made it even more difficult to keep the characters straight. I had to reread several passages before it was clear that “John” on page 38 was also “the photographer” referenced before and after, and that “Johnny” in Chapter 1 was the “Lieutenant Hilgeman” in the next paragraph.

The most disappointing part of The DMZ was the writing, including the issues mentioned above. Scenery descriptions were overly repetitive, with the same adjectives in use over and over. Windle uses random Spanish words throughout the book, italicized so they pull the reader out of the story rather than in. There are some small editing errors, but one in particular was jarring enough to halt my reading: on page 39 Dr. Renken asks, “What do you mean, they won’t come with us?” However, the question refers to nothing as “their” intentions are not discussed in any way beforehand. Such editorial inconsistencies seriously detract from any enjoyment of this story.

The DMZ is easily 250 pages longer than it needed to be. For the persistent reader, there is a compelling journey at the core of this book; the ending, however, was a disappointing succession of predictable events that felt forced and unrealistic and did little justice to this story’s potential.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars


One comment

  1. […] Writer's Closet Writing about writing, for the sake of writing « Review: The DMZ by Jeanette Windle Book Reviews: Getting Through An Unpleasant Book […]

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